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Adaptation

November 11, 2015

The last two weeks were productive. Really productive. As in I look back and wonder if I slipped an extra day in there somewhere, because whoa, stuff got done. The Robo4ce novel’s off with the agent (hiya Evan!), I built Act Two of Cover Crop with a little help from Save the Cat! software (thanks, StoryPros!), and I figured out how to restructure the novel and screenplay versions of Not Even Past (thanks, Writers under the Arch!). All this on top of herding the Lego League team towards the qualifier next weekend.

Quick aside: Yo, Lego. Packing seven cables with a robot that has eight ports, and then only selling them in said packs of seven, is right up there with selling hot dogs in packs of ten and buns in packs of twelve when it comes to inviting Karmic Justice. Just Sayin’.

Back to writing.

Working on Cover Crop was educational: evidently you don’t need a middle act for short stories. Doesn’t mean they can’t have them, of course, but “beating out” the plot in Save the Cat! revealed this story’s compacted nature. When I wrote the short it seemed as if it was half setup and half payoff with nothing in between, but it didn’t bother me, or WUTA, at the time.

Fortunately the seeds of Act Two already existed in Act One: romantic tension between exes forced to work together, balky equipment that needs fixing at inopportune times (that never happens in real life, right?), first impressions of a character I can play with…mix well, add a little caffeine and hey! Presto!

Not Even Past is a little more complicated. One of the things that came out of the WUTA reading was that one of the two mirrored protagonists–the non-human one–came off as more inscrutable than I wanted. Who would have guessed a teenage dinosaur-bird thing would prove harder for readers to understand than a teenage human girl? *

No, they're not turnips

Smarter than the author when it comes to character development

As I was casting about for ways to fix that, a few things clicked together. I already knew the novel needed a different opening than the screenplay, but what hit me last week was that different kinds of reveals can have different effects in film and in print. A plot-explaining or character-deepening reveal can carry a wallop in both, but a primarily visual reveal is likely going to resonate more on screen than in a reader’s head.

The particular effect here was that a really cool visual in the screenplay came at too high a cost in terms of suppressing that protagonist’s character development in the novel. So I ditched the setup for it…which allowed me to reorder the opening any way I wanted…which made me try pulling all the back story elements conveyed via dialog and (shudder) flashbacks in the screenplay into the first section of the novel. Thus the non-human protagonist gets the page time and the clear motivation she needs to make sense to people from the first page.

The end result is going to be a novel where the same story is told in an entirely different order than the current iteration of the screenplay (and probably future ones as well). And that’s okay. Getting my head there was probably the most important thing that happened in the past two weeks, in the grand scheme of things. One must keep adapting, after all.

*–Anyone smarter than a rutabaga. Or me.

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